Beauty Shop, Autistic/Artistic, Bananas, Trans-gression…

Thursday, Alden Cole and DoN drove to Bethlehem to drop off one of Alden’s fabulous luminaries at Home & Planet, an extraordinary art gallery featuring art created from recycled materials.  The gallery was getting ready for First Friday, so we got to see a preview of the featured art which includes some really creative metal constructions by artists Ben and Kate Gatski and welder Lana Garner.  Gatski’s installation includes works created for the garden as well as moo-valous steer heads, cows and giant flowers all made with found metal.  Quite a-moo-sing.Metal cow and flowers by Gatski @ Home and Planet.

Metal cow and flowers by Gatski @ Home and Planet.

Lana Garner creates signature cityscapes from steel dumpster doors, car hoods and drum barrels – a true dumpster diver.  Gritty and bleak, the works portray the urban landscape with humor and inventiveness.  Garner was a member of a women’s welding collective called Accoutrements and now lives in South Carolina where she has an old gas station for her studio and an old church renovated to be her home.  DoN is fascinated with the scale and scope of these monumental works which are extremely heavy and required industrial strength mountings to hang in the gallery.  DoNwas also pleased to see the Philly skyline portrayed in welded metal.  Since Bethlehem used to be a steel town, the works by Gatski and Garner are particularly poingnant.Cityscape on a car hood by Lana Garner @ Home and Planet.

Cityscape on a car hood by Lana Garner @ Home and Planet.

Cityscape on dumpster door by Lana Garner with Alden Cole luminary (left) @ Home and Planet, Bethlehem, PA.

Cityscape on dumpster door by Lana Garner with Alden Cole luminary (left) @ Home and Planet, Bethlehem, PA.

Detail from Lana Garner’s welded art on an old car hood.

Detail from Lana Garner’s welded art on an old car hood.


Alden and DoN next walked to Monsoon Gallery to see the paintings and sculptures in the five year old art space.  Art consultant, Erin Panner explained how the gallery changes out all of the work every month so there’s always something fresh for First Friday visitors to view.  Monsoon also carries lovely custom jewelry; the space is doing so well they expanded into the building next door.Metal sculptures @ Monsoon.

Metal sculptures @ Monsoon.

Painting by Nava Mentkow @ Monsoon.

Painting by Nava Mentkow @ Monsoon.

The Banana Factory in Bethlehem is, well, bananas!  Artists’ studios, fabulous gallery spaces, hot glass factory, dance school, singing instruction… Alden and DoN has a blast visiting artists in their studios, previewing the spectacular photo show by John Isaac , U.N photographer, checking out the vast array of art and watching ballet dancers practice at the barre.  Banana Factory Director of Public Relations, Kim Plyler expounded on how the space used to be a real banana warehouse and how it was re-purposed to bring arts and culture to the community. DoN was impressed by the corporate sponsorship of artists’ studios so the artists only have to pay minimal rent to be in a safe space to create.Listen! Painting with Sound by Young Artists with Autism @ The Banana Factory.

Listen! Painting with Sound by Young Artists with Autism @ The Banana Factory.

I know – like, “WoW!  The paintings by autistic artists was impressive, emotional and barrier busting.

Artist Andrew M. Kish III, working in his studio @ The Banana Factory.

Artist Andrew M. Kish III, working in his studio @ The Banana Factory.

Mosaic artist Kim Hogan in the studio she shares with videographer Bruce Ward @ The Banana Factory.

Mosaic artist Kim Hogan in the studio she shares with videographer Bruce Ward @ The Banana Factory.

Here’s a cool art idea you can steal - just paint hundreds of small paintings and mount them on a wall as a group; it should only take you a few years to complete.  Paintings by Ann Elizabeth Schlagel @ The Banana Factory.

Here’s a cool art idea you can steal – just paint hundreds of small paintings and mount them on a wall as a group; it should only take you a few years to complete.  Paintings by Ann Elizabeth Schlagel @ The Banana Factory.

First Friday, DoN volunteer ushered for the season finale by Philadelphia’s favorite renaissance music band – Piffaro.  Playing in the appropriately gothic interior of St. Marks Church on Locust Street, Piffaro performed The London Waits – Music from the Time of Elizabeth I.  DoN LoVes it when Piffaro has guest vocalists but it was great to just see them on their own playing their extraordinary collection of ancient instruments.  There was one song sung by Grant Herreidcalled Hackney by Clement Woodstock (fl.c. 1575) which extolled the virtues of tobacco.  DoN noticed several Piffaro fans waving their pipes in the air (the smoking kind).  Piffaro has several CDs available for sale on their website. 

Saturday, DoN visited Pentimenti Gallery in Old City, Philadelphia and got to spend some quality time with the adventurous art and chic owner/curator Christine Pfister.  The current show features art by Matthew  Kucynski calledYou’re Apocalypse and David Ambrose called The Braille Landscape.  Christine and DoN discussed the impending influence of low-brow casinos invading our neighborhood (a similar problem for Bethlehem) and how it would be cool if the casinos were going to be up-scale like Monaco instead of slots halls designed to rip off poor people.  Oh, well – the art at Pentimenti is innovative and exciting, as usual.  Especially Ambrose’s braille art which DoN commented is an idea he would like to steal – all you have to do is punch thousands of tiny holes in paper and then carefully paint trippy, drippy abstracts. Again, it should only take you a few years to complete – “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

Braille painting by David Ambrose @ Pentimenti Gallery.

Braille painting by David Ambrose @ Pentimenti Gallery.

3D painting on wood by Matthew Kucynski @ Pentimenti Gallery.

3D painting on wood by Matthew Kucynski @ Pentimenti Gallery.  PS – Pentimenti has a very cool website.

Sunday, DoN attended the opening party for Trans-gression Artists’ Collective at The DaVinci Art Alliance featuring artists Tally Brennan, Deborah Caiola, Justin DeForest, Justin Jain, Susan DiPronio, Cathleen Miller, Heather Marie Davis-Jones, Kirsten Knoblauch, Laureen Griffin, Ellen Rosenberg and Martina Plag.  Trans-gression is an artists’ collective dedicated to creating “opportunities to examine, play with and break gender stereotypes”while building a safe space for artistic and personal exploration. They provide support, mutual inspiration, and access to resources for individual and group projects (DaVinci website).  The show includes paintings, photographs, installations, poetry, performance pieces, sound design and more; based on gender issues faced by the community with works each focussing on disparate aspects of class, race, gender, feminism, love and sexuality.  Screams by Susan DiPronio is a sound piece featuring the voices of women and children abused by society either because of age, sex or status discrimination. Photographer Laureen Griffin shoots women cross-dressing in women’s clothes set against bold backdrops enhanced with encaustics.  Deborah Caiolo’s bird paintings ironically portray gender issues with subtle cues and symbols.  Cathleen Miller’s haunting paintings and poems speak openly about her views of the male gaze on womens’ self image.  Trans-gression runs through May 30th with films, performances and more throughout the month, check the website for more info.

Artist Laureen Griffin with her “Gender Portraits” @ DaVinci Art Alliance.

Artist Laureen Griffin with her “Gender Portraits” @ DaVinci Art Alliance.

Gender Portrait by Laureen Griffin.

Gender Portrait by Laureen Griffin.

Gender Portrait by Laureen Griffin.

Gender Portrait by Laureen Griffin.

Painting by Deborah Caiola @ Trans-gression show.

Painting by Deborah Caiola @ Trans-gression show.

Painting by Deborah Caiola @ Trans-gression show.

Painting by Deborah Caiola @ Trans-gression show.

Mixed media painting by Cathleen Miller @ DaVinci Art Alliance.

Mixed media painting by Cathleen Miller @ DaVinci Art Alliance.

Finally, DoN had a fascinating discussion with artist Julia Koprak about her travels through Taiwan and China at her closing party at The Beauty Shop Cafe; Julia first went to Taipei to be an English teacher and found herself photographing for magazines, acting, dancing and traveling through western China.  Koprak was able to visit parts of China now off-limits to tourists since they follow Tibetan traditions and are being “transformed”, apparently there is currently “nothing to see” there.  Julia had many anecdotes about how China is promoting an anti-spitting campaign and training the citizens to not be pushy on public transportation in anticipation of Olympic visitors.  Julia Koprak’s work is available through her website.Photographer Julia Koprack @ The Beauty Shop Cafe closing party.

Photographer Julia Koprack @ The Beauty Shop Cafe closing party.

All photographs by DoNBrewerMultimedia Photography.


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